I spent time this week looking at every FBS schedule, searching for the best 100 games in 2020. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
It got me thinking about the Illinois schedule and what teams I would like to see in the future.
Covering the Illini the past 30-plus years has given me a chance to visit a wide variety of football venues.
My favorites include Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium, UCLA’s Rose Bowl and California’s Memorial Stadium. All gems and a credit to the sport.
The Big Ten is blessed with wonderful buildings, including the one at 1402 S. First St.
Illinois doesn’t have any choice on where it plays in the conference. Those decisions are made by the league office. At some point, the Illini will travel to the other 13 campuses, some more often than others.
Illinois does control what teams it plays outside the Big Ten. This season, Illinois State, UConn and Bowling Green are scheduled for appearances at Memorial Stadium.
In future seasons, Illinois has games against Virginia, Wyoming (unfortunately not in Laramie), Kansas, Duke (basketball doubleheader please) and Missouri.
Games are listed as far out as 2035.
But there are plenty of holes to fill. Here are 10 teams I want to see Illinois play at some point in the distant future:
1. Notre Dame
There is a history here, albeit long, long ago. The team’s have played 12 times, with the Irish leading the series 11-0-1 (ask your parents about ties).
The last meeting was in 1968, a 58-8 Notre Dame victory. That might explain the hesitancy to reschedule.
Play the game in Champaign, South Bend, Chicago, Kokomo. Doesn’t matter the location.
Call former Illini assistant Greg McMahon, now on the Tigers staff. The Rantoul native would be thrilled to bring his old team to Baton Rouge, La.
Illinois fans might remember the well, passionate Tiger faithful they ran into at the 2002 Sugar Bowl. McMahon tells me gameday at Tiger Stadium is unbelievable.
Another set of Tigers. Another fan base known for its enthusiasm. Helps to have a team competing for the national title most seasons, like Clemson has done in the recent past.
Playing at the South Carolina school would present logistical challenges for Illini director of football operations Tim Knox. But he can handle it.
If you want to be the best, you have to play the best. And there is no better program in college football than the one run by Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa.
5. Iowa State
The schools are six hours apart, but haven’t played since 1969. Weird.
Better hurry if you want former Illini Nathan Scheelhaase to still be on the Cyclones staff. He is rising in the coaching profession.
I’d prefer games against the Cyclones be held in Ames, home of my favorite pizza, Great Plains Sauce & Dough Company. Yummy.
6. Air Force
The teams played twice in 1979-80, the latter game ending in a tie at Memorial Stadium. I visited the Colorado Springs school last summer and had a blast.
Like Iowa State, it’s an easy drive for most fans, with Lexington roughly five hours away from Champaign-Urbana.
The teams have played twice, but not since 1913. After 107 years, it might be time to tee it up again.
8. Boise State
Just for fun, and to mess with the Broncos, the Illini can wear all blue on the Smurf Turf.
9. Appalachian State
Best if the game is played at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C. It’s a beautiful setting.
Duh. Basketball goes there often. Football’s turn.